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Published: March 22nd 2013
Petronas TowersFirst stop Sipadan
Our last memory of a great stay in Kuala Lumpur
After our arrival in Tawau we were picked up by Seaventures for a one hour transfer to Semporna. We noticed the many thousands and thousands of palm oil trees along the road. From Semporna we were sailed to the converted oilrig of Seaventures just opposite Mabul Island. It was a great ride in a speedboat powered by two 200 horsepower engines. This is really something compared to the slow boats we experienced in the Philippines. It was very special to live on the rig that is transported to Borneo all the way from Panama and now functions as a dive resort. To our joy we met Bob from California who we befriended on our Socorro dive trip last year. We had a great time in Socorro and again on Borneo.
The diving around Sipadan is fantastic. The area is a protected marine reserve and the island rises 600 meters from the bottom of the ocean. It works as a magnet for the big creatures of the sea. There is a maximum allowance of 120 divers per day on Sipadan and we were guaranteed two days of diving at Sipadan. However we were lucky and had 4
Our home at Sipadan
days of diving at Sipadan and 2 days at Kapalai/Mabul.
To briefly sum up, we encountered a lot of sharks (whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks), turtles, napoleon fish, massive schools of barracuda and jackfish. To this we can add the school of more than a hundred bumphead parrotfish on an early morning dive. Our favorite dive site was “Barracuda Point” where the sometimes strong current made things really fun. The most impressive encounter was the school of thousands of jackfish and barracuda. The sky went dark when we dived below the jackfish. It gave associations to the Illiade with the arrows in the sky. We estimate that there were at least 50.000 fish in that school. There were thousands of barracuda and it was very impressive watching them elegantly swimming against the current while we were fighting to stay still.
Our 6½ day on Seaventures went far too quick with 3-4 dives a day. We had great dive guides in Mando and “La Titta”, who were also very entertaining above water. Besides the big animals at Sipadan we saw many different nudibranchs, clownfish and even a pigmy seahorse and a tiny hairy shrimp under the rig.
Whitetip reef shark
If this was a painting I would title it "Goodbye Inge"
It was with a touch of sadness that we said goodbye to Bob and the dive team at Seaventures, but new adventures were ahead. Sepilok – Home of the orangutan
After a 5 hour bus transfer we reached Sepilok. We stayed 5 minutes walk from the orangutan rehabilitation center. The center takes care of young orphaned orangutans and prepares them for life in the jungle. We visited the center 2 days and on both occasions we saw many orangutans. We even saw them right outside the center where they were enjoying a meal of bamboo leaves. It was a great and emotionally experience to watch these gentle and wonderful creatures up close. They share 96,4%!D(MISSING)NA with humans. Maybe even some humans share a higher percentage, but that is probably an insult to the orangutans. The word orangutan origins from Malay and means “man of the forrest”. That is a perfect annotation for this charming animal. As great it was to watch the orangutans at Sepilok it was also with a touch of sadness, since the reason for them being here is the conflict between mans hunt after profit and the preservation of the rain forest.
The giant school of barracuda at "Barracuda Point"
natural habitat of the orangutan has diminished with the many palm oil plantations. Luckily it seems that Malaysia has taken steps to protect some areas, so the animals have a chance to live their peaceful lives in the forest. When we watch their calm behavior we can ask ourselves a question, what gives us the right to take away our relatives home? The Sepilok center does a great job in helping the orangutans and we have supported their work by a one year donation to one of the infants as a birthday gift to Inge. We are full of respect of the people dedicating time and effort in this line of work without any financial benefit.
We also visited the proboscis reserve in Labuk Bay. In this area the monkeys were threatened by a new big palm oil plantation. Fortunately the owner left a piece of forest to the proboscis where they now live a protected life. These primates really look funny. Especially the males with their big noses, which the locals call “The Dutchman” (sorry Arjen). River safari on the Kinabatangan River
After 6 really good (very hot) days in Sepilok and surroundings we went on
Batfish and jacks
A few batfish with the giant school of jacks in the background
to the Kinabatangan River. Christian was a bit jealous of two Hong Kong Chinese with their 600mm lenses on good Nikon cameras. Boy, they could make really good photos of the kingfishers. Well, if we win in the lottery.
We enjoyed 6 boat trips on the river. The daily schedule was a 06:30 morning trip for 1½ hour and a 16 pm trip for 2 hours. During these intervals the birds are most active. We saw many different birds. Our favorites were the beautiful kingfishers, the hornbills and the eagles. Inge even saw her first ever owl. The clear blue colors of the kingfishers are simply enchanting for the eyes like the song of the nightingale for the ears. Besides the birds it was a great experience to see 6 wild orangutans. They are fascinating with their long orange coats and especially a big male with a huge face was impressive. If that wasn’t enough, we also encountered the Borneo elephants, crocodiles and snakes. How on earth the guides saw the snakes is a mystery to us. We could hardly see them when pointed out. Finally we must not forget that we twice had blind passengers in form of
The weird looking fish with the very big teeth
rats. Both of them jumped off the boat and into an unknown destiny in the river but it was quite amusing hearing Inges scream when one of them ran over her bare feet. Last and not least we should remember to mention the groups of proboscis and macaques swinging in the trees. The Kinabatangan River fully met our (high) expectations although we were a bit disappointed by the lack of mosquitoes. Mount Kinabalu National park
After our great time on the river it was time for a 4 hour bus transfer to Kota Kinabalu National park. As usual there was an annoying passenger sitting next to C. Why is it you have to sit and make very loud noises with your mouth not even eating? Once again I am blessed with my I-phone and turning up the volume. Inge was almost as lucky as me sitting next to a carsick child vomiting. Of course you can’t blame the child, but still it is not too great. Fortunately we only have one longer bus transfer left on our trip. We won’t miss them.
Well after all we arrived safely at the park and got our nice room at
Turtle on one of the walls of Sipadan
J-Residence. We have enjoyed the cooler climate in the highlands and our treks in the park. We chose not to climb the mountain that is the highest mountain on Borneo with an altitude of more than 4000 meters. We kind of regret that decision but the mountain will also be there next year.
We haven’t seen too much in terms of animal life, but still we have encountered squirrels, beautiful birds and weird looking insects. We really live in the country side and the choice of restaurants is quite limited. The food is not really our taste so we look forward going to Kota Kinabalu tomorrow and have a roti canai and a Mcdonalds for Inge! Yesterday we celebrated Inges birthday with a visit to the areas only fine restaurant but lousy food. At least we could enjoy a really nice room and also some nice looking waitresses and that was it. The walk back to our hotel was great. We could see the shape of the mountain in the starlit sky. The mountain is usually covered in clouds during the day, so one has to get up early to see it. Right now we are sitting on our
Close up of the elegant fish
porch and enjoy the vision of some beautiful tropical birds and a squirrel eating fruit.
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